On a brutally hot afternoon, a lone woman makes the long trek from her village to the nearby well. She brings with her an empty jug. All of the other women had come out to draw up the water early in the morning – before the sunlight would beat down upon the earth. All of the other women had come out together to gossip and laugh, to share stories and to work. But not her. No, this lone women was more likely to be the subject of their gossip and their stories. She was more likely to be laughed at. So instead, she preferred the company of the radiant sun, the dust in the air, she preferred to risk facing whatever dangers might await her alone than to face her peers.
On a brutally hot afternoon, a lone woman walks to a well with an empty jug… and there she meets the source of life and life abundant.
So many times have we heard the story of this Samaritan woman and her chance meeting at the well with Jesus. So many times have we talked about how Christ broke through so many barriers – religious, gender, social barriers – to speak to her, to show this woman love. So many times have we marveled at the transformation in her life as she ran back to the village – to those same women she avoided every day – to share the good news.
So many times we tell this story and we walk away feeling warm and fuzzy… another life saved…
But we forget that one day on a brutally hot afternoon, a lone woman made a long trek from her village to the nearby well… and her jug was empty.
We forget that before the good news there was pain. There was heartache. There was desperation. We forget that a woman was yearning for a God who seemed absent. We forget that a community shut another person out and refused to invite her in. We forget the sting of judgment. We forget the bitterness of disappointment in herself and in her husbands.
Before the good news of living water… there was thirst.
When we set the table this morning with a glass, it is because we, too, are thirsty. We, too, are waiting for God’s spirit of love and compassion and healing to fill our lives.
When we bring this empty glass to the table, it is because we are thirsty.
Or if we are not thirsty today, we have been in the past.
We have experienced pain and disappointment and mistrust in the past. We have experienced the drought of faith when our lives were too busy for God. We have experienced dry and brittle seasons of prayer when God seemed absent. We have been alone and lost in the wilderness when others that we thought we trusted turned their backs on us. Maybe the well itself was blocked because your family or work… maybe you abandoned going to the well of God’s love because you no longer felt like you belonged.
And as much as we wish that didn’t happen in the church – it has. No matter how faithful we try to be, we are human and we make mistakes, and this body of Christ has suffered in the past.
But just as last week, we remembered that God can set a table of plenty even in the wilderness – we remember today, that Christ offers us living water… even in the midst of a brutal and painful drought.
I want you to take those cards that you have been given again today.
As we prepare to come to the table… we prepare to bring ourselves… I want us to honestly come before God with empty jars and pitchers and glasses.
These cups are empty because we have experienced hurt and pain in the past. Prayerfully think of a time when this church body did not live up to it’s calling as the people of God. When have you been disappointed by this community? When have you been hurt and alone because of a divorce or the death of a loved one? Write down on a card a moment of emptiness – a moment when you were thirsting for God’s love and righteousness to fill your life and to make you whole.
We are preparing ourselves to come to the table… and that means we need to bring the full history of our church before God. Now these cards can be turned in anonamously – you don’t have to put your name on them or the full details of the situation. But make note at the very least of a time when you felt empty and dried up… I was hurt. I was disappointed. And as we add to the timeline of our church we created in 2008, I want to ask you to include the year or the decade that this time of emptiness came.
Take a few minutes to prayerfully write these things down.
Hang on to each one of these. Hold them in your hands.
In the book of common prayer, we hear that those who go through desolate valleys will find it a place of wells.
For those of you who wrote about a past time of drought and emptiness in your life – How many of you eventually found a deep well of God’s compassion and love?
How many of you made it through that dry time?
How many of you experienced the outpouring of grace and with joy can now draw water from the wells of salvation… show of hands.
As the woman at the well was reminded… sometimes in our darkest moments, Christ speaks to us. And he offers living water like a spring that will gush up to eternal life. There is plenty. There is hope. There is comfort. There is salvation.
For those of you who raised your hands… part of that healing was finding community once again. Like the woman at the well, you were able to return or fully participate again in the life of Christ through this church… and we are so glad that you have =)
God has a word for us. It is a word of restoration and healing. It is a word of comfort and peace. And that word is waiting for us to come. To come and to listen. To open our hears and our hearts to receive it. Place your empty cup on the table…. Come.